Criteriums are a special kind of racing. They require a broad variety of skills to be successful, least of which is nerves of steal. Since crits are the most prominent type of racing in the USA, it is arguably most important to prepare for this type of racing.
- Cornering – Every spring I would practice this most basic of skills with my team. Even though we were all experienced racers, this tight and fast skill needs to be continually developed. The best teams would have a series of weekends that they worked on all the crit skills, with corning being at the core. Practicing entering corners from different angles, with riders on your inside, with riders crowding from the outside and setting up for the sprint through the last corner are all needed just to be in the mix of a criterium.
- Sprinting – Folks often describe criteriums as a series of sprints out of corners. The truth is that you should only feel that way occasionally during the race. If you have developed good cornering skills, you should have enough speed to not have to push too hard out of most corners. Now, don’t get me wrong. You will be sprinting out of corners or on the straights. These efforts should be timed around going after moves, moving up in the peloton and attacking the race. Working on sprints from a rolling start will be very helpful and I would encourage to work on them coming out of corners and on straights.
- 1 Min. Efforts – There are many times where the difference between success and failure in a crit is a 1 minute effort at full gas. Racers need to be able to repeat these efforts with very little recovery.
- Positioning – At the end of the day, positioning might be the most important skill of all. Holding your position in the race, moving up when you need to and placing yourself in a positing to win in the last corner are all more or as important as fitness. I only say more important because you can be very fit and end up last place if you don’t position yourself well. This is also the most difficult skill to work on. Ride in groups and work on moving yourself around in the peloton in different scenarios. This is also one of those things that you will have to work on during races and be very conscious of developing as a skillset.
Criteriums can be very intimidating for a racer. They can be extremely fun. The rush a racer gets from rolling though corners at 30+ mph amid 100 other competitors and finishing clean is amongst the biggest high a person can have. Every racer should try at least one and hopefully develop the knack to finish these strong with confidence. Good luck!